Asparagus Baked in Parchment with Caper Mayonnaise

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    2 to 4

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

“You can never be too thin”—we've all heard that too many times! And though it may be true applied to humans, I don't think it applies well to green asparagus. Thin spears are best for omelets, simple steaming, and dipping in coddled eggs, but I find that the fatter, purple-tipped spears, or green knobby ones, work best in more complex recipes, including this Spanish confitado of asparagus.

The problem with thick asparagus is that often the tips of the stalks are done while the centers are not, or, conversely, the centers are toothsome while the tips are overcooked.

Spanish chef Carlos Posadas, of the Amparo restaurant in Madrid, taught me a novel way of slow-cooking the thick spears for 1½ to 2 hours in olive oil inside an ovenproof parchment pouch. When finished, the spears are still green and evenly cooked end to end— fat, succulent, juicy, and delicious.

Chef Posadas serves his slow-cooked asparagus accompanied by mashed potatoes topped with slices of a Parmesan-like cheese. I serve my version smothered with caper-flecked mayonnaise.

Ingredients

  • 18 to 24 thick asparagus spears
  • cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 long sprig of tarragon
  • 12 salted capers
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 175°F. Spread a 2-foot-long sheet of parchment paper on a large baking sheet. Arrange the asparagus spears in a neat, single layer on the parchment. Drizzle the olive oil over the asparagus. Season with the salt and sugar. Top with the tarragon sprig. Fold the paper over the spears and tuck the ends under themselves to form a tight package; secure the package with kitchen string.
  2. Bake the asparagus for 1½ to 2 hours, or until the spears feel tender when pressed through the parchment.
  3. Meanwhile, soak the capers in water for 1 to 2 hours. Pat dry and coarsely chop. In a small bowl, blend the mayonnaise, heavy cream, and chopped capers; season the sauce with salt.
  4. When the asparagus is cooked, carefully cut the parchment paper open and transfer the asparagus to a platter. Mix any cooking juices into the sauce, pour over the asparagus, and serve warm.